Lesbian couples likelier to break up than male couples

On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands celebrated its first same-sex marriage. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports that - since then - more women than men have married a partner of the same sex. The break-up rate was also higher among female same-sex couples.

On 1 April 2001, marriages between partners of the same sex were legalised in the Netherlands. During the first two years more gay than lesbian couples seized the opportunity to get married, but since 2003 more lesbian than gay marriages were registered. Last year, 765 lesbian and 644 gay marriages were registered in the Netherlands, slightly more than during the past five years.

Annual number of same-sex marriages
Annual number of same-sex marriages
 Two menTwo women
200113391075
2002935903
2003735764
2004579631
2005570580
2006579633
2007663708
2008656752
2009573785
2010660694
2011601754
2012544741
2013522700
2014532727
2015647748

As the number of same-sex marriages increased, so did the number of divorces. Since 2011 more than 200 lesbian couples and more than 100 gay couples decided to break up.

More lesbian than gay couples decide to break up

Lesbian couples are more likely to divorce than gay couples. In 2005 580 lesbian marriages were registered; a decade later more than 30 percent had ended in divorce. Gay marriages are less likely to end in divorce. After ten years more than 15 percent of gay marriages had failed. The break-up rate for heterosexual marriages was 18 percent.

Proportion of marriages registered in 2005 still intact
Proportion of marriages registered in 2005 still intact
 Man and womanTwo menTwo women
2005100100100
200699.810099.6
200798.69996.6
200896.798.192.4
200994.696.489.1
201092.693.386.2
201190.791.682.1
201288.989.577.7
201387.187.474.6
201485.586.273.2
201583.78670.3
201682.184.569.6

People who get married prior to their twentieth birthday or are aged between 40 and 50 at marriage are more likely to divorce. The risk of divorce is also higher if the partners have a wide age gap between them. If the ages of the partners and the age gap between them is taken into account, lesbian couples are still more likely to divorce than gay and heterosexual couples. In that case, the risk of divorce is the same for gay and heterosexual couples.

The analyses only include marriages between partners who were still alive in 2016.

Homosexual men older at marriage

On average, gay partners are older when they marry than their heterosexual counterparts; gay men are on average more than 43 years old on their wedding-day, as against nearly 37 years for heterosexual men. Almost 20 percent of gay married men were 55 years or older on their wedding-day.

Lesbian women are also often older on their wedding-day than heterosexual women. The average age of lesbian partners on their wedding-day is 39, versus 34 for their heterosexual counterparts.

Age on wedding day, 2015
Age on wedding day, 2015
 55 yrs and older45-54 yrs35-44 yrs25-34 yrsyounger than 25 yrs
Man in same-sex marriage19.22526.924.84
Woman in same-sex marriage12.219.225.137.65.9
Man in heterosexual marriage11.112.822.646.67
Woman in heterosexual marriage7.710.218.148.615.4

Considerable age gap between gay partners

Apart from the average age of gay men at marriage, the age gap between them is also higher than between lesbian and heterosexual partners. The age difference between gay partners was 7.5 years in 2015. In more than one-quarter of gay marriages, the age difference was more than ten years. The average age gap between lesbian partners was 4.6 years, versus 4.3 years between heterosexual partners.